web & ux (user experience) design specialist

Natural Language Search and Google’s Limited Grasp of Penis Euphemisms

WARNING: Contains dubious language. I was so impressed with Google’s grasp of my crude and somewhat gruesome search query, that it prompted me to write a blog post about it… which is saying something, as it's been more than a year since I found time to write anything worth reading!

50 Problems in 50 Days

Maybe I’m late to the party, I’m not sure, but I just stumbled across this and wanted to share it. 50 Problems in 50 Days is the brainchild of Peter Smart (by name and by nature) who is “on an adventure to explore the limits of design’s ability to solve social problems, big and small”.

To do this, he attempted to solve 50 social problems in 50 days, whilst spending time with 12 of Europe’s top design companies. The problems involve everything from solving his own complicated travel itinerary and finding a power source for his MacBook to this – one of my particular favourites so far – solving the problem of chatterboxes in quiet carriages.

Some of his solutions are quite inventive!

Ad-overkill Ruins
User Experience for ITV Player

I was delighted to see Econsultancy pulling up the ITV Player for its overuse of frankly irrelevant and inappropriate pre-roll advertising. In this day and age, I would expect an organisation of the size and heritage of ITV to have a far better grasp of both technology and user experience, but it seems that the need to drive advertising revenues has overshadowed the fundamentals of providing an engaging experience for second-screen audiences.

In case you’ve never experienced this for yourself, ITV’s on-demand player subjects the viewer to a minimum of three pre-roll ads played back-to-back, which they must watch through to the end before they get to the content they’ve asked for. That’s a lot of irrelevant messaging to ingest before getting anywhere near something of value. To make things worse, ITV don’t appear to be using any kind of targeting technology to personalise the experience for the viewer, which means that ads are somewhat generic in appeal, disregarding one of the most crucial advantages online video delivery holds over traditional broadcast channels.

This will almost certainly reduce casual viewing – and therefore eroding content discovery and audience growth – rendering the ITV Player only really suitable for die-hard fans looking for a catch-up service for programmes they absolutely cannot see elsewhere else. More casual viewing is too much of a chore, especially given that there are so many alternative on-demand players that offer a better experience for the user.

Pro Tip: If you want to watch ITV Live (rather than on-demand) the TV Catchup app from GZero, available for iOS devices, lets you watch ITV live on your mobile device without packing the experience with unnecessary barriers.

Top 5 Trends Influencing UX in 2012

An interesting question about the state of UX in 2012 was raised on Quora last weekend, one that I actually found quite difficult to answer, given that there are so many cool things rocking the UX world at the moment. Whether or not my top five influences will be the top five or not remains to be seen, but these are certainly five trends and movements that will have a massive impact on UX over the next 12 months and onwards. This post expands on my answer on Quora, which was written at about 11pm on a sunday night, and so probably wasn't an insightful read…

{UX} User Experience:
Minority Report UI just around the corner…?

Okay, so it needs some refining, but Russian company Displair has come up with an exciting new technology that projects images on to a stream of cold fog, and uses an infra-red camera to track hand gestures. Having boot-strapped this prototype together with minimal government funding, I image it’s only a matter of time before they get some serious funding together!

Read the full story at TechCrunch…

My Great North Run Adventure

Okay, so this has nothing to do with design or UX, but a bunch of us at Riff Raff took part in the Great North Run yesterday, raising money for Finchale Training College, a nice group of people who help adults with disabilities to get back into employment. We've all been training for around 4 months now, and it has been quite an adventure. In the run up to the event, I was a little anxious and eager to find out what to expect. Googling the subject unearthed precious few helpful accounts of what I was letting myself in for, so I thought it might be helpful to write about my somewhat bizarre experiences here. Hopefully it will prove useful to anyone about to run their first half marathon…

The Future of Retail is Mobile

It seems that the humble mobile app is gaining traction in the offline world, as American home improvement chain Lowe’s have announced plans to replace their checkout scanners with some 42,000 iPhones, according to Mobile Commerce Daily.

The idea behind the radical switch is to enable Lowe’s staff to provide a better service to their customers, through on-the-spot inventory checks, access to helpful information and how-to videos, and eventually handling credit card transactions.

This is a bold move, and an exciting one too, as it exploits mobile for its greatest strength – mobility – rather than just another way to reach an audience.

With companies liked Square enabling anyone to take credit card payments via iOS devices, it’ll be great to see smaller retailers making this technology work to their advantage soon.

Google TV comes to Android SDK

Exciting times are ahead for those of us with an interest in the emergence of truly ubiquitous IPTV services, as Google announced to the Android development community this week that, with the upcoming OS update to Honeycomb, Google TV devices will finally be Android compatible.…

Three Clicks or Bust

There are lots of popular design myths passed off as 'best practice' these days by armchair designers, particularly within the web design industry. Somehow these guidelines manage to work their way into the public consciousness, often taking root in briefing and specification documents where they eventually become criteria used to measure the quality of a delivered product...

Bringing online & offline together

Last week I wrote an article for the Tech Notes column in The Journal giving one tiny example of how marketers can unite their online and offline activities to create a single seamless user experience.

This is a fascinating topic for me, and something that keeps me up at night scribbling in my Moleskine, so it was great to share a couple of ideas...

Designing the emotional user experience

I was reading a blog post recently by a member of our Riff Raff UI design and development team, Richard Powell, and thought I'd share a story that I felt was quite appropriate.

It's a story that helps us to understand how human beings make decisions, and how important it is to cater for both the emotional and the logical side of any customer experience…

An iterative approach
to user experience design

No successful web project ever started out with a list of KPI's and conversion targets. It's the creative vision that sparks a project into life and drives it to fruition.

But it's all too easy to let our enthusiasm for the genius idea get the better of us, and quickly find ourselves saddled with an expensive collection of digital tumbleweed. But there is a better way…

What motivates you?

A conversation I had at studio Riff Raff the other day got me thinking about why I started up in business for myself. It seems so long ago now (almost 13 years in fact) that I could barely recall.

I felt sure it was something to do with freedom and the ability to take holidays whenever I pleased, but when I really thought about it, the answer was actually quite surprising…

Ditching Tumblr for Good!

Okay, I take it back – earlier this year I moved my blog to Tumblr because I found the feature-bloat in WordPress a bit of a ball-ache. Tumblr’s lightweight feature-set is great for quick, impulsive post-writing, which actually encouraged me to write more

But user experience is not everything. Performance and delivery has to count for something, and their constant server problems meant that my site was down more than it was up. I lost numerous posts to server failures and who knows how much traffic over the months, so I’ve switched my blog back to WordPress.

It may have a wealth of features I’ll never get around to using, but at least I can take responsibility for reliable hosting myself, and never have to see that “We’re Sorry” page again!

Good riddance Tumblr – it was fun while it lasted!

The Emperor’s New Social Strategy

When it comes to social marketing, it seems that small businesses in the UK just don't get it. Despite all the buzz surrounding Facebook and Twitter, many SME's are struggling to see any real value in their inclusion in the marketing mix. So is social marketing really just a box of nail-holes, or are UK businesses just doing it wrong?

If only life had a search engine…

I've often fantasised about having an Undo button for life in general, but recently I've found myself imagining what life would be like with a search engine, too...

Live conference streaming debuts on Risky Business 2010

The Risky Business conference, hosted by Great Ormond Street Hospital, addresses issues of risk management, leadership and teamwork in high-risk industries, such as medical, chemical, defence and emergency services. Visitors can now register to watch live talks by the likes of NASA, RAF and the CAA as they happen...

Three Riff Raff web projects shortlisted for regional design awards

Three of Riff Raff's recent web projects have been shortlisted for regional design awards The SMACS, organised by digital media collective Super Mondays...

Canvas for the Masses

Mix Online Labs has released a free cross-platform plugin to export vector and bitmap images from Adobe Illustrator to HTML5's Canvas element, including support for interactivity and animation...

Has the world gone completely mad!??

If it were not incredible enough that companies like BP and LastMinute.com can register a colour as a Trademark, it now appears that interactivity itself has been patented...